Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Help

I finally got to read the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Don't worry, I'm not going to provide plot synopsis or spoilers. This is a quick enough read that you should check it out for yourself.
The Help
There are several different covers you may see: This one,

this one,
Or this one.

It was just as good as I'd heard. I'm not usually a fan of books written from multiple points of view, preferring to connect with one person at a time, but this was done well and I felt it was appropriate. I love period pieces. Usually I prefer ones written then over those that are simply set in a particular time period for two reasons. First, the more obvious issue is anachronisms. I like to learn about daily life in history and it doesn't help if I learn it wrong because the writers don't do thorough enough research. More troubling is when the mindsets are off.

(For example, I have had a hard time getting my hands on the original Nancy Drew books, because they are rare. Thankfully, they have reprinted the originally published books (though they are still hard to find) because fans have complained that the politically-correct, watered down versions that had replaced the originals since 1959 are a poor imitation. Yes, there is racism and stereotyping, but those books unapologetically represent a worldview from back then. They show how far we've come and help to explain why things were the way they were, why people thought and behaved the way they did. Which brings me to the point. I've been disappointed by a tendency to put a modern heroine or a heroine that holds none of the cultural influences of that time, in a period novel. It throws everything off.)

Though I cannot say for sure, since I was not alive during the 60's and apart from Nancy Drew books, I have not read a lot of work from that particular time period, I thought Stockett did a wonderful job with both lifestyle and mentality of 3 very different cultures from the time: the black women, southern white women and northern white women. I brand Skeeter a northern white woman despite being born and raised in the south because of her desire to live up north and the way that fits in with the northern movements and culture more and more throughout the book. It was insightful and impactful and fascinating. I liked that Skeeter was different but not in an unheard-of way. She was strong but still doubted herself, which made her relatable. It's human nature to want to be accepted and liked, but I have so much respect for an author who shows the reality of isolation, rejection, and dealing with it. Not to mention, sacrifice for a worthy cause never fails to be inspiring. I think it says a lot when a book about writing a book makes me wish I could also read the fictitious book.

I'm not sure if it's realistic, but I was worried about graphic violence and I was relieved to see that while it was present, it was in the periphery and not where the book was ultimately leading.

Now I have to hunt down the movie! I'm glad I held off seeing it until I could read the book, but I have faith- Emma Stone is one of my favorite actresses and I trust that she will do Skeeter justice.

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